Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu has placed nine clerks in its department on the suspension for their alleged involvement in fraudulent acts fraud.
The complainants came after the comptroller's investigation identified "a well-established network of officials who have inherited from DTI (the Ministry of Commerce and Industry), network facilitators and service providers operating outside DTI, in cooperation with the Small Business Development Department."
This "network", according to the parliamentary case committee on the development of small businesses, was "designed to deceive the government, thus sabotaging efforts to address poverty and unemployment."
In a statement issued by the chairman of the committee, Ruth Bengo, Zulu is praised as someone who acted "swiftly" against "officials whose fingers were inscribed in the criminal investigation report by the Office of the Comptroller General."
The criminal investigation was launched in response to complaints by frustrated entrepreneurs and co-operatives who were struggling to move their business from the ground.
They discussed with members of the parliamentary committee during inspection visits between 2014 and 2017 to KwaZulu-Natal, East Cape, Gauteng, Limpopo and Mumumalanga.
Grants are missing
According to the statement, it was there and there that the committee "noted that the grants of the Department of Small Business Development designed for small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), as well as cooperatives, did not positively affect the recipients.
The recommended criminal investigation, conducted by the Office of Investigation, examined two of the department's plans – the Black Business Providers Development Program (BBSDP) and the Co-Operatives Incentive Program (CIS).
The statement said that "although the former ex-director, Professor Edith Ferris, has long seen the need for a criminal investigation, she later agreed, after continued attraction.
"The committee will recommend a continuation of the criminal investigation that will include the years preceding the establishment of the Small Business Development Department, with the BBSDP and CIS grants belonging to DTI.
"History will judge us severely if not corrupt corrupt officials foil government programs designed to elevate the poor and struggle to get out of poverty," Bhengu added.